Monday, 24 November 2014

"It requires no relief"


Per Marquard Otzen, Virginia Woolf.

Two artists and one cool company to be in when they are debating. The author Virginia Woolf and the musician Tue Ebert could be on the brink of declaring a definition on art, finding in their unison that common factor for art we have always been searching for in vain, but that is far from their interest. No, they are much more interested in how art comes about: 

Tue Ebert with band 2011, the two stills are from:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvLzMbE2HYQ&spfreload=10
Art is an arduous process.

It is all well and good to get an initial idea, but to actually get to the point in which the artwork has attained its own heartbeat, there is work to be done. It is sitting down every day for a year at the studio.

Tue Ebert
Such were the thoughts by Tue Ebert, whom we have already met on this blog reading Joyce. Most of the time, though, we reverse to our mutual favorite, Virginia Woolf. And with her, her very best novel or as she named it herself "an abstract mystical eyeless book; a playpoem": The Waves. 

We both prefer her as an essayist when she is not expected to incorporate a plotline, but lets her sentences twist and turn on a certain subject. As for herself she found that she had a tendency to be too loose-winded and needed tightening her line of thought about the time when she began outlining The Waves, then still not The Waves, but The Moths, visitors from the outside reflecting changes in each scene. Only, moths are not active during the light hours and so the idea of waves came up.

Per Marquard Otzen, The Anatomy Lesson of Professor Tulp, April 22, 2013.
"It is one thing that a life is over and a different thing that a life is finished
by reaching its conclusion". From Kierkegaard's Diaries.
Another substitution after giving up yet another idea, only this one turns out to be the one, but somehow the road had to take that extra turn to find it. With the waves too we reached the element that turned out to be synonymous with the very process.

First, though, we have to throw in a third art form of course and with it the cartoonist whose pen is already to be seen in the portrait of Virginia Woolf, posing in her tearing open of structures to create fluidity, letting her words form still new phrases. "I am relieved of hard contacts and collisions" as one of her protagonists says in The Waves. Instead, "we melt into each other with phrases". Per Marquard Otzen uses phrases a means of building movement, the incessant words in strings, constantly generating new ones and in cases such as Kierkegaard the neverending ones. The phrase is not just a token of the drawn line, but a very physical one at once esoteric and a presence; in its very outset a meandering one forming into letters. To the effect as expressed by Tue Ebert:

"There is no need for an ending
No closure nothing complete
There is no need for an ending
It requires no relief":



"Endings"Written and sung by Tue Ebert alias Oceanic with Ida Wenøe Bach.


"And I'll teach you lessons that you'll soon/enough unlearn" - the sentences intertwirl and do not follow the music, creating a hypnotic, slow crescendo in tension, but cleverly avoiding any culmination, thereby not dissolving the intensity. We witness the transformation of the lyrics into notes; there is indeed no closure, no completion. All the more powerfully done for our sensing that the music itself has completion, in the words of Woolf "A saturated, unchopped, completeness, changes of scene of mood of person done without spilling a drop".

Per Marquard Otzen: James Joyce in the Sea of Words
struggling against being drawn in.

Words which were of course related to her own work while struggling, wondering if her scenes should be run together more? Chiefly by rhythm, as she continued. "Avoid those cuts, make the blood run like a torrent from end to end – I don't want the waste that the breaks give". No chapters, only the repetition of the insensitive waves running homogeneously in and out, underlining that her protagonists undergo no development, while they speak of how they are of constant creation: "For there is nothing to lay hold of. I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me".

Being conscious of their structure, her characters struggle from time to time, questioning what it means to be made of phrases: "I do not understand phrases". Yet, concluding that their lucid insubstantiality is all they will ever have in which to find a meaning: "When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness - I am nothing".

Just as the smallest dot of the pen, the point is nothing in itself. It is the line, which creates motion, setting off the drawing. At times it is possible to detect a "hvorfor" - i.e. "why". At once texture and yet eluding deciphering, proving the unity of the drawn line with the thinking mind; even cleverly making the artistic process visual, whether it is one of being the teller of what no man has survived before or writing a world within the world.

Per Marquard Otzen, Knausgård's Universe, August 8, 2011.


Per Marquard Otzen, Flow, December 21, 2008
There must be great freedom from "reality", yet everything must have relevance, as Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary: "diffusity and breathlessness (...) I detest".

So let us take leave with the cartoonist drawing on his flow, while Tue is fighting the repetition and yet another day will dawn. I dare anyone hearing him without repeating his very words.


"Nocturnal". Written and sung by Tue Ebert alias Oceanic 


The artworks shown are courtesy of their artists and must not be reproduced without their permission.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Captured Brain


There is such a thing as lazy cartooning and then there are those drawings which add layers to our understanding.

I have an aversion against names and notions written across the forehead or back of the protagonists in a cartoon. Intellectual lazyness and as such a cardinal sin in cartooning. I do know it is usually imposed upon the cartoonist from outside. From someone who wants to be absolutely certain that everyone knows it is about THIS and not THAT once the cartoon is publicized.

Only the effect is as heavy handed as describing it above. The play with double meanings is after all a means of giving us a chock; the one of not being absolutely certain at first what is taking place, setting off reflection.

Fadi Abou Hassan uses but three elements here, moving the noose to that part of the body, which is usually not the focus of an execution and yet, of course it is exactly so:

Fadi Abou Hassan, Execution, October 7, 2014.


The cartoon shown is courtesy of Fadi Abou Hassan and must not be reproduced without his permission.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

On the Anniversary of the Kristallnacht


A wall that has seen all too much. As imagery it is not intentional; the reality of it, however, was very much so. The Kristallnacht in which German Jews were attacked and murdered and about 30.000 deported to concentration camps, while their property was destroyed and burned down, took place on this day in 1938 and November 9 is a day to reflect on one of the reasons the Holocaust that ensued became a reality.

A wall within a gas chamber in Auschwitz. Photo: Niels Larsen, 2014.


In terms of intentionality, cartooning was explained as one of the core reasons that made the genocide possible. The intentions had a name: Julius Streicher, the editor of the Nazi weekly Der Stürmer:

"Typical of his teachings was a leading article in September, 1938, which termed the Jew a germ and a pest, not a human being, but "a parasite, an enemy, an evil-doer, a disseminator of diseases who must be destroyed in the interest of mankind".

The last paragraph above is a transcription from his verdict when he was placed among the 12 main accused on the two front benches in the Nuremberg trial November 1945.


As for himself he declared when put to trial that he had "never committed a crime". Maybe not physcially so (although, well, he committed more or less all crimes in the book in his lifetime, and he was personally responsible for burning down the synagogue in Nuremberg during the Kristallnacht), but the name of the weekly, Der Stürmer says it all. A "Stürmer" is an attacker; this was a weekly on taking action.

Streicher did not draw himself. He had Philip Rupprecht at hand to each week turn humans into creepy animals of the type that spreads disease. Rupprecht was given a prison sentence at Nuremberg, the main culprit, though, remained Streicher who was convicted for two types of actions: For creating an understanding of a necessity to select and then murder the country's own citizens, and then paving the road to take them from their normal life to a gas chamber.

To create an understanding he saw to that the very same type of drawings and articles were met with  by its readers "week after week, month after month" to quote the Nuremberg verdict. At its height in 1935 the weekly had ca. 600.000 readers, but massive posters, actually specially made encasings hung in the street made certain everyone was exposed to the drawings on a constant basis.

Once the status of "vermin" was established he began the call for the extinction in 1938, the year of the Kristallnacht, and in Nuremberg 23 articles were laid out in evidence dating 1938-41 in which he preached "root" and "branch" to be extinguished.

He continued his call for mass murder at a time when he knew it had already long taken place, he even printed the numbers of the dead, making certain reflection had no place that could risk the Nazi enterprise.

Streicher was convicted for crimes against humanity. His victims were not the virus, he was the infection, as the verdict concluded.



Gas chamber in Auschwitz. Photo: Niels Larsen, 2014.

Streicher is the extreme case of what cartooning can accomplish. He deliberately chose to propagate death and was all too successful. He was all the more declared guilty in that he had proven that given the will, he could have done the very opposite. Not only could he have changed a situation for the better, he could even have created a voice for it never to have taken place. In convicting him there is not only a belief in man and the free will; there is too a belief in cartooning.


The photos shown are courtesy of Niels Larsen and must not be reproduced without his permission.


Monday, 3 November 2014

Ducks to Water


The Ducks by Jørn Villumsen have amassed quite an interest lately and it is indeed high time to see how they are doing.

They are fine. In fact, never better:


Jørn Villumsen, Watergate, October 28, 2014.
Copenhagen have to get used to being the Venice of the North several times a year. 


At least for as long as the rain continues. The littlest one is still in trouble, but the century-old sturdy fishermen of the paintings of Michael Ancher have arisen and they are doing a better job coping with the traffic than the police lately.

The sheep in Jutland on the other hand have gone into hiding. The wolf has returned to Denmark and Jørn Villumsen has of course portrayed all 11 of them. A new danger howls at every velvety hilltop if the media should be believed; note their sharp glittery clarity contrary to the worn townscape:



Jørn Villumsen, July 13, 2014.


The cartoons shown are courtesy of Jørn Villumsen and must not be reproduced without his permission.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Communities of Meaning


When I was preparing the blogpost on Doaa Eladl on the danger of never returning home in spite of all good intentions the other day, the story had in fact another layer to it: Tony, writing from Beirut, found himself commenting on two situations at very same time due to a sudden unrest in the neighborhood, possibly a bomb? Yet, neither of them hesitates in what they do - they create and discuss art.

This is such a moving example of when art matters. I cannot help comparing their approach to the art debate around these parts, Northernmost Europe, for the past months, where the insistence on art as provocation has taken another round.

The Swedish art critic Robert Stasinki discussed the matter in the October edition of the magazine published by Konstnärernas Riksorganisation Konstnären. On the one hand we have the Wittgensteinian language classification, which has a popular appeal in its simplicity that the main ingredient to art is the self-pronounciation of someone declaring him- or herself to be an artist creating art. And then we have the seemingly more elitist approach in which art is something created within a social system of interlinked, verifying institutions and individuals, a "community of meaning" according to the social anthropologist Anthony P. Cohen. Art is not a result of a single resolution or construct of language, but an ongoing - and I am still quoting Stasinski - process of validation on what is relevant.

The social approach could be seen as a way of keeping out. The established galleries in Egypt pre-2011 for instance favoured the conceptual art and were unattainable to many if not most of the young artists. They chose in turn the street as their canvas and exhibitional space alike, creating a stellar chapter in contemporary art history with Aya Tarek and Ganzeer as some of the first and most notable. Aya Tarek constantly stresses that her art is not part of a political agenda; it is critical, but not propaganda, while Ganzeer has used the term "Concept Pop" to visualize the transition from the galleries onto the street, an art still conceptual in character void of the artist's ego, tackling the concerns of daily life. All of this, as he continues is as yet but in its initial form. Institutions are dialogues and debates, not walls.

Cartoon art, because of course I have to bring in cartooning, does the very same thing too on a daily basis. The social approach is not about keeping out, but seeing art as inclusion in a wider discussion in society beyond the single artwork.


Bob Katzenelson, Feeling better now..., October 27, 2014.


Just take this one on the Danish politician, Mogens Camre, who has been featured before on this blog. Back then for his hate speech merely months before Breivik committed mass murder in Norway. Camre is at it again, the quick, nasty, stupid remark on Facebook, then backing out and deleting when told to do so by his own party members. Only, he has done this so many times and we know he shall do so again.

What he said? "I had a strange feeling when I saw the news on DR1 this evening. A journalist, who seems to have come from the Middle East interviews a Minister of Integration, who is an Indian".

The Waning of the Roman Empire, sorry, the constant declamation on a Danish culture vanishing before our very eyes, insisting to have the keys to right and wrong. And just like their Swedish counterpart Sverigedemokraterne they take the anthropological approach to art as culture.

So this is not so much about him as the outlook he represents, not least as a party member. The main thing here is the greenish vomit. The angle underlines that the two on the TV-screen are the normality in jacket and tie, whereas in the foreground we have someone wrought on his own anger. The dripping, seeping vomit is not so much writing off the trolling of social media, as seeing the social media as a community of possible meaning, to elaborate on Cohen. They are what we make of them each day and of which cartoons play their part.

The cartoonist creates a visual memory of what certain wish most to pretend they never did. The spew.


The cartoon is courtesy of Bob Katzenelson and must not be reproduced without his permission.


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